The Four Horsemen of the Internet Apocalypse

Just when you thought it was safe to get really excited about the fantastic possibilities of the Internet again, a dark cloud looms. The Internet as you have always known it is facing a serious threat that requires your attention.

The issue is Net Neutrality. If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll try to succinctly sum up its importance to you.

All of your current Internet marketing plans depend on Net Neutrality. And likely, a lot of what you do online outside of the scope of business depends on it too. Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech.

So who are the Four Horsemen looking to destroy the Internet as we know it?

The reformed AT&T wants the power to allow big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web to muscle out startups and entrepreneurs. The little guy will be left in the “slow lane” with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.

Comcast would just love it if they could favor their own services, so you won’t be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.

Could Big Media partner with companies like Verizon to put bloggers out of business and silence the threat to their content monopolies? It would be simple under such an arrangement to skyrocket the costs to post and share video and audio clips—silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.

Likewise, when Time Warner Cable has the ability to steer the choices of your customers (and you) to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc, your business and your freedom are history.

This is not a conspiracy theory.

The US Congress is pushing a law that would abandon Network Neutrality, the Internet’s First Amendment. Network neutrality currently prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner from deciding which Web sites work best for you — based on which site paid them the most. Without Network Neutrality, the scenarios outlined above are just the beginning. And it will affect people all over the world, not just in the States.

To learn more, and get involved, you can do several things:

  1. Educate yourself about the issues. Read Doc Searls article from last year on the topic (this is what first alerted me to the issue, and allowed me to spread the word a bit, most notably to Liz Strauss, who took the ball and ran with it).
  2. Visit the Save the Internet website and blog to learn more, and to send a quick and easy letter to Congress voicing your opposition.
  3. Spread the word. There’s a huge viral marketing campaign going on right now to spread awareness and galvanize support. Help spread the word with your blog, by email, or come up with a viral video concept. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that if the big telcos and cable companies get their way, grass roots viral marketing will be a thing of the past.

They WILL win if we are apathetic. Do something, or find a way to earn a living that doesn’t involve the Internet.

UPDATE: In a surprise victory, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require broadband providers to abide by strict Net neutrality principles, meaning that their networks must be operated in a “nondiscriminatory” manner.

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Comments

  1. Brian,
    This is excellent–factually, editorially, visually, persuasively, and all of the -ly words I can think of. Jeff Pulver’s viral marketing campaign should get a push from this surely. I’m going to quote myself.

    Liz

  2. Brian,

    I’ve been reading about the Net Neutrality problem for some weeks now. This is easily the clearest overall portrayal of the threat that I’ve come across.

    Hope you don’t mind; this is getting linked to in this week’s blog-ness!

  3. That action.freepress.net link does not seem to be up at the moment….

  4. Brian,

    Okay, I’ve been reading every post here with my full attention because it’s obvious that your advice on copywriting rocks… But you’ve passed the real high water mark with this one. I can’t *count* the times I’ve skipped yet another article on net neutrality and blown off taking any action. Yours was the one that got me to post to all my blogs, email people, and sign the petition. Considering who-all is in my RSS feed, you’ve done the nearly impossible.

    What’s more, I’m even glad you did. Thanks.

    I hope like hell this bill gets defeated.

  5. Bandwidth is the lifeblood of the Net. No matter how free we want the Net to be, someone somewhere must pay for the bandwidth. I live in Virginia. My site is hosted in Utah. A traceroute signal passes through Comcast computers to AT&T computers to Qwest (a Baby Bell) computers. If my site exceeds bandwidth limitations set by my hosting company, then they bill me extra. But AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable will not bill me.

    So I suspect the Big Four want money to cover bandwidth expenditures. Yes, they could use the law as a hammer to smash free speech as well, but I suspect money is the first priority.

  6. This is really incredible. What next AT&T deciding the color of my underwears?

  7. shabda said
    This is really incredible. What next AT&T deciding the color of my underwears?

    I’m sorry, shabda. They don’t care about the color, but they do have your underwear wired. :)

  8. It’s interesting really this Net Neutrality issue. These companies probably would say we aren’t going to be evil. However you don’t see any of them fighting for a net neutrality bill do you?

    Cuz if you did I would switch to their service. Nope all evil companies plotting what they can get away with in the future.

  9. David’s right. ‘magine one company who pushed Net Neutrality through would get a wealth of customers for doing it.

  10. It’s a new world order

    Excellent writing Brian. I’ve read Doc’s piece, and yours, but there can’t be too many people writing about this problem.

    I’ve been doing a great deal of research into RFID and digital money and surveillance of the populace in general. I’ve been writing against the replacement of hard currency with digital, traceable smartcards for 15 years. I also happen to know something about Internet surveillance, from prior employment, that I cannot reveal. But trust me (and Brian) that you want to defeat this bill, for more reasons than just the cost and loss of freedom. There is a 120 px w x 240 px h banner available at

    http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7BFB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665%7D/MEDIA%20DEVILS%20BLOGAD.GIF

    Link the image to http://www.commoncause.org/handsoffmyinternet

    Display it on your site, with the above URL as the link.

  11. This just creeps me out, really it does. I dont think the american congress has any idea what this would wind up doing

  12. Keep up the great ….. work.